Like their varsity brethren, the Providence Bruins were a strong Cup contender when their season went on pause.
The team’s franchise-record winning streak — 12 games — was one better than the 1999 team that won the Calder Cup, and young prospects were some of the most important and best players. Coach Jay Leach was disappointed to see that momentum halted.
“We’ll salvage something out of it,” Leach said Monday on a conference call. “The guys have played 62 games and they were able to get a lot of minutes and had some success. We’ll build on it one way or another.”
Some may not have to wait to return to the ice. With the AHL canceling its season last week, their NHL affiliates will have their pick of players. If and when the Bruins restart — however that might look — several P-Bruins will be called to join practices, and potentially, games.
Leach, who plans to conclude the last of his exit meetings with his players Tuesday, said the most likely call-ups among the greenhorns would be centers Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic and defensemen Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen (plus winger Karson Kuhlman and defensemen Steven Kampfer, who have more NHL experience).
Other topics touched on by Leach:
º The Bruins are encouraged by Studnicka, the second-round pick (53rd overall) from 2017 who jumped from the OHL last season. By the end of his AHL debut, he was third among rookies in scoring (23-26—49), tied for 12th overall in the league, and led the league in shorthanded goals (7). He was a power-play and penalty-kill weapon and Leach trusted him (and 23-year-old winger Cameron Hughes) as forwards in the final minutes of tight games.
"He had a terrific year,” Leach said. “His competitiveness, his speed, his hockey sense has really shone through and he was able to be very productive on both sides of the puck."
º The Bruins were lacking in the physicality department last year. In the second half, Nick Ritchie supplanted brother Brett as the Bruins’ bruiser on the wings, with mixed results. Frederic, who had 148 penalty minutes and led the AHL in fights (8), likes to mix it up. Questions persist if the 2016 first-rounder (29th overall) will be more than a bottom-six center. Leach seems like a fan.
"I’ve said it many times, he has so many different attributes that not many have,” Leach said of Frederic, who boosted his point total from 25 to 32 in his second pro season. “He’s obviously a bigger guy [6 feet 2 inches, 203 pounds] that has a heck of a shot, can get up and down the ice.”
If he is confrontational, as Leach described him, on an every-night basis, Boston might take a long look.
º Zach Senyshyn, the last of Boston’s trio of 2015 first-rounders (15th overall), has had a quiet three seasons as a pro (six NHL games). A right-shot winger with noticeable speed, Senyshyn isn’t a graybeard yet. But with 66 points in 174 AHL games, he is not producing like a future top-six NHL forward, which is what any franchise would like their middle-first-round pick to become.
"We were very excited for where Zach was going the last stretch, the last five, six weeks,” Leach said. “We’ve talked about Seny quite a bit. Sometimes I think, our staff included, you tend to forget how young some of these players are. He’s just turning 23 [in March]. Players develop in different ways and at different times.”
While playing on a line with two older players, center Brendan Gaunce and left wing Brendan Woods, Leach said Senyshyn was aggressively forechecking and getting to the net, “and with that came some offensive opportunities and he started to cash in a bit.
"I know it’s tough. It’s his third year pro . . . and I get it, it’s professional hockey and there’s expectation there. But in our mind and in Seny’s mind, he’s exactly where he needs to be and that’s that he’s starting to really develop.”